Home > Regular Columns > Talking Heads: NZCS, 2 November 2015

Talking Heads: NZCS, 2 November 2015


The people entering our industry today will determine its strength in the decades to come. Yet it has never been harder to get that first step that will set you on the right path – your first work experience on a professional set.

This is ironic because it has never been easier to buy a camera and go out and shoot. Pretty decent cameras and editing gear are within reach of young people, and there are ready distribution channels via YouTube and other video websites.

This new world of democratised technology may help build a pool of talent with a good eye for composition and how things will cut together, and probably boosts the quality of film school graduates. However, that does not necessarily help win one of the coveted places for camera trainees on highly choreographed drama or high-end commercial sets, let alone international productions.

After all, our industry revolves around relationships and the talented but inexperienced men and women trying to get into the industry have not yet built those relationships. What potential might the industry be missing out on, as a result of this structure?

New programme
This is where a new NZCS programme has the potential to play a pivotal role in channelling and fostering emerging camera talent. Named Camera Pathways, it is the brainchild of longstanding cinematographer Kevin Riley. The programme will identify talented people who are committed to a future behind the camera and help them find a path into the industry.

This is good for the trainees, benefits participating productions, will help build a stronger industry, and will help enhance New Zealand’s reputation for a highly skilled workforce that is attractive to both local and international productions.

Deceptively simple
The idea is deceptively simple:

  1. A new trainee applies to NZCS to join the Camera Pathways programme. If the applicant meets the criteria and is accepted then –
  2. The trainee meets with an NZCS DoP from a participating production. If this goes well –
  3. The applicant is offered 1-3 days unpaid work experience on a participating production. If this goes well –
  4. As openings become available, the applicant is offered a paid camera department trainee position of one month or more by the same production or another participating production. Normal trial periods and crew terms apply. If this goes well –
  5. The trainee is offered a free NZCS associate membership to assist networking, building relationships, and establishing their career.

This is a chance to give talented people of varied backgrounds an opportunity to launch their image-making careers. (Of course, some might quietly drop away as they find out they are not suited to life in the camera department).

For UPMs and DoPs, it means they can quickly call on a pool of potential camera trainees. They can confidentially talk to the NZCS DoPs and UPMs who have had contact with them in the past – all without wading through vast stacks of random CVs from newly minted graduates.

Right timing
The new programme has been in the works for some time as Kevin Riley worked out the details – he even relinquished the chair of NZCS to concentrate on it. He says the launch timing is perfect right now, as we look forward to a pickup in production.
The timing also reflects a move by NZCS to ramp up its core philosophy – to foster the art and craft of cinematography. We will continue to offer great events, workshops, and represent cinematographers, but Camera Pathways is the first move to be more inclusive.

Reaching out
Adding a pro-active programme to help talent get into the industry is just one of the ways we will reach out and better reflect the broad mix of skills of all those who work with cameras and images.
Cinematography was once the more or less exclusive preserve of middle-aged men pictured standing next to a large white Panavision magazine on an equally large film camera. Not anymore. A cinematography society today, like the profession of cinematography, covers the whole spectrum of capturing and processing images in the screen industry. As well as drama and commercials, news and current affairs, documentaries, television, online content, camera department crew, colourists and VFX are all part of it.

The future is going to be built on a lot of these overlapping skills, and it is going to be built by those entering the industry today who learn from the skilled older hands and turn what they learn into something new.

And that is what the Camera Pathways programme, and indeed, NZCS is all about.

To find out more about the Camera Pathways programme or participate email [email protected]


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